Revena recently pointed us to an article on the Official Shrub.com Blog about criticisms of criticism, and it got me started thinking about some of the criticism this site receives from defenders of the status quo, people who love the shows we’re analyzing, and people who feel the need to leech off other sites’ popularity to preach their personal dogma. Without naming (shaming) names or linking to specific comments, I’m going to talk about some of the types of comments I see both here and on other sites that seem to have one purpose only: getting critics of pop culture to shut the hell up.
“Lighten up! It’s just a TV show! You’re reading too much into it.”
While that’s a valid perspective, it’s obvious that a site like this one doesn’t share it. We choose to look at our entertainment choices as a window to what makes our society tick – to our mass psychology and conditioning, and to how we can change things. Yet some people – who could post this opinion on thousands of sites that would welcome it – feel the need to invade another’s site to make such comments. Isn’t that a bit like marching into a wedding and shouting, “Oh, why bother with all these vows? Nobody’s faithful anymore!” When you shove your point of view onto people who’ve created their own space for the purpose of discussing something they know won’t interest everyone, you’re not just opining – you’re being aggressive. You’re telling us to shut up, because our topic is not worth your time. Simple solution: take your own advice. Lighten up! It’s just a website! You don’t have to read it!
For a really good read on this topic, check out Tekanji’s article, Debunking the Myth of Frivolity.
“Men will always objectify women, and TV has to pander to that to make money.”
This is a classic strategy for people who fear they might not win the argument: patronize and dismiss the opponent. If the argument is really so pointless, why is it worth your time to mention that? Do you think the status quo needs your support? Why, if it’s so indomitable?
“So what are you suggesting? That we ban this stuff?”
Another classic diversion strategy: put the critic on the defense for something she never said. While she’s defending herself, maybe everyone will forget all about her frighteningly insightful article you couldn’t? actually refute.
“Why don’t you focus on a real problem? Go start a women’s shelter or something. Or is that too difficult for you?”
This declares the arguer to be sole arbiter of what it important in the universe. The arguer is belittling every inequality and injustice against women that comes before a wounded victim seeking rescue. The arguer accepts the idea that harm to women is inevitable, and therefore, sees an attempt to dissect our culture for what’s fueling misogyny as a “waste of time”. It’s exactly analogous to arguing that there’s no point looking for ways to prevent crime: we should just build more jails.
And finally, an argument I find somewhat peculiar to feminism:
“You just don’t get it. This objectification doesn’t mean what it used to, because we women have claimed it. Thank goodness some of us are secure enough in our feminism to laugh at it.”
First, let me discuss the tone here, which is patronizing. A feminist who feels the need to patronize other feminists demonstrates a closed mind and a lot of fear that the other feminist may be right. The very same argument delivered with respect and presented as opinion would be another story entirely. There are indeed women who have been lucky enough to live in a world where women can get boob jobs, wear Porn Star t-shirts and strip for a living without being sexually harassed, denied rights or victimized. I can see how they would feel feminism has already succeeded in its mission, and we now have the “right” to objectify ourselves. But there is another equally valid side: women who have experienced harassment, victimization and the denial of rights. Yep, right here in the US! If, after careful consideration, some of us believe that objectification is still fueling misogyny – that feminism has not yet won the battle – a true feminist will respect that opinion even if she disagrees.